Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Horses Have Left the Barn

The Revd George Conger--who reports regularly for The Living Church, as well as producing free-lance journalism--has broken the news on Religious Intelligence that a new plan is afoot, brokered by some leading conservatives including Drs Ephraim Radner and Christopher Seitz and Archbishop Drexel Gomez, and apparently now with the imprimatur of the Presiding Bishop, to meld some of the elements of two earlier plans which were essentially stillborn--that of the Dar es Salaam Communique, and the PB's own Episcopal Visitors plan--in an effort to avert the daily widening schism both within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

With the caveat that my own response is based on a first reading of Father Conger’s article, and without the benefit of seeing the actual document which is the subject of the article, it strikes me that this may have been a significant development had it occurred six months ago, but that too much water has flowed under the bridge for it to be of any substantive effect now. This saddens me, because there was no doubt a time when something such as this might have “worked” to avert the sort of pandemic schism Anglicanism now faces. It may very well be, on its own terms, a good plan. But I fear that, from a practical political standpoint, it is too little too late. With the increasing evidence that the GAFCON leaders are not bluffing about skipping Lambeth, something rather more drastic than this is needed to coax them back into the tent. The only move that would be effective in this regard would have to be something that would be seen and experienced as a “defeat” for the Episcopal Church establishments (PB, 815 staff, Executive Council), something that Canterbury and/or the Joint Standing Committee would make them “eat” against their will. There needs to be a perception that TEC has been duly “punished,” even if on an interim basis, if the momentum of GAFCON is to be blunted. This may or may not be right, proper, or just. But it is political reality. IMHO, the Windsor Report, and the ensuing “process,” already contain the infrastructure for such a move. We don’t need to invent anything further; somebody needs to use the tools that are already on the table.

(Please see Covenant for more discussion of this issue.)

21 comments:

Michael said...

Dear Dan,

I alway knew this was about making TEC eat crow. But GAFCON is hardly a wave of disassociation from the WWAC. It is rather the remnants of the failed efforts to bully the ++ABC and the Anglican Communion.
It may well be too late to have the GAFCON people at Lambeth through the implementation of this plan, but it is just as well they sit it out if the only other option is to capitulate to their demands. I am sure you have noted that they have moved their meeting from Jerusalem in order to avoid the Gaffe of alienating those bishops. Now their Confidence game can move elswhere and continue to wither.

ruidh said...

Oh, I don't think that encouraging GAFCON and the Southern Anglican Convention back into the tent is really the goal for this initiative. It seems to be a way to peel off the moderately conservative (West Indies, Jerusalem, Burundi, etc.) from the extremely conservative. If the SAC want to "walk apart" for a time, the ABC is not going to stop them.

Indeed, it is this dogged insistence on punishment which seems to be the major intransigence of the extremists.

Malcolm+ said...

I think ruidh has the rights of it. The manner in which Akinola, Jenson and others have conducted themselves has alienated the conservatives from the "conservatives."

Their attacks of conservative critics of GaffeProne have been every bit as vicious (and occasionally moreso) than their attacks on Liberals. Dr. Poon was basically told to sit down and shut up by an unnamed primate. Bp Wright of Durham was labelled a racist. Bp Dawani and more recently the Primate of Brazil were accused of having been bought and paid for by the Episcopal Church.

As a person who belongs to an openly ideological political party, I have learned a number of important lessons about politics. One of them is that victory will go to the side that can reach out to the moderates.

Ecclesiastical politics aren't that much different. In terms of the institutional debate, the liberal side has managed to hold the liberals, the moderate liberals, and probably most of the purely moderates. Now the GaffeProne antics of a few have opened up the opportunity for the liberals to reach out to the moderate conservatives.

At this point, the only horses that have left the barn are the "conservative" extremists. To use a different analogy, they have left the field. Armies don't usually retreat when they are winning.

(I'll admit up front that the analysis is broad strokes and not very nuanced. And I really don't like the liberal and conservative descriptors - though we all know who we mean by them.)

Anonymous said...

There are two faults in this reasoning. First is the idea that some kind of symbolic punishment --- "eating crow" --- would satisfy the global south. The second (in the comments) is that policies works by satisfying the "moderates".

In fact, politics works by satisfying the majority. The majority of Anglicans have already spoken, they are at the Jerusalem council, not Lambeth; they are forging ahead with new structures; and nothing TEC or ABC or anyone else can do now will stop them. Sorry whiteys: African Anglican Christianity has come into its own.

To answer then the first question: what would it take for TEC to be admitted to the Jerusalem council - because real repentance would presumably see "all" of TEC - not just the departing diocese - admitted to Jerusalem. Again, the answer is clear, and only from the US can this answer been seen as anything other than moderate: all gay and lesbian priests and bishops, all theological "liberals" and all their consecrators, co-consecrators, and enablers, must resign forthwidth.

If you're a Christian struggling in ECUSA, or an African Anglican struggling against Islam, it really doesn't matter if some heretical ECUSA bishops are or are not admitted to Lambeth. You still don't want to be under their "authority" in any way; or have anything to do with them.

ECUSA is not going to fire half its HOB, and two thirds of its deputies, and all its executive council. It is not going to repent.

So the Jerusalem council is the only way ahead for Christians who wish to remain Anglican: Worldwide - yes in the CoE too.

Lisa Fox said...

Dan+, I take from your essay/analysis that nothing will be sufficient until TEC is humiliated and cast into outer darkness. Is that your stance? If so, why would +KJS, the Executive Council, or anyone else in TEC's hierarchy agree to this proposal?

ruidh said...

"In fact, politics works by satisfying the majority. The majority of Anglicans have already spoken, they are at the Jerusalem council, not Lambeth; they are forging ahead with new structures; and nothing TEC or ABC or anyone else can do now will stop them. Sorry whiteys: African Anglican Christianity has come into its own."

That's funny how the word of a single primate is taken to represent the position of everyone in the province when, in fact, no more than a handful had a say in his election.

Malcolm+ said...

Anonymous 4:14 clearly has no interest in responding to what has been said, prefering to twist other people's words.

Politics works by reaching out to moderates. That is how one builds a majority. It is very rare that either "side" of a debate effective represents a majority. Usually the side that wins is the one that builds a broader tent.

Of late, the GaffeProne leadership have seemed determined to narrow their tent - going out of their way to alienate honest conservatives who decline to fall in line with the extremist agenda.

Lisa rightly points out the utter foolishness of claiming Akinola's views represent virttually every person in Nigeria, while at the sdame time claiming that Jefferts Schiori represents only a minority of American Episcopalians. The idiocy of the claim is even more obvious when one considers the narrow base which elects the Primate of Nigeria, as opposed to the much broader base which elects the American Presiding Bishop.

But then, logical coherence was never much of a strong suit with the "conservative" schismatics.

ruidh said...

"Of late, the GaffeProne leadership have seemed determined to narrow their tent - going out of their way to alienate honest conservatives who decline to fall in line with the extremist agenda."

Which is, historically, the problem with puritan or pietist movements -- where to draw the line. It is also the urgency behind their developing their confessional statement so they can draw the boundary around right belief and finally find out who's in and who's out.

Emily said...

Just to be a little sticky...I wish you had not used the word "imprimatur" as, in some modern parlance, it implies "approval" or support of the content of the document or work to be printed. That really isn't the case. The expression that was used was "nihil obstat" which means nothing impeding a document's content as heretical. +KJS, apparently, was presented with a fait accompli. ... "This is what we are doing" We'd like your support but we will do it anyway. From my understanding of the Canons and Constitution of TEC, there is nothing objectionable in the plan on the basis of polity. There was, however, nothing objectionable in the "Network" or the original CANA Convocation of Nigerians in America either. The concern is what Communion Partners might due, and what the relationship might morph into, i.e., "We are the real TEC, our way or the highway..."

Dan Martins said...

To Malcolm--
I suspect you may be largely correct in your assertion that political victory goes to the side that can capture the moderates. But I have also seen instances where victory goes to the side that can successfully paint *itself* as moderate, thereby casting their opponents as extremists. I don't see anybody trying to do that presently. For the moment, among both Liberals and Conservatives, purity seems to be trumping pragmatism.

To Lisa Fox--
Here is what I wrote in response to a similar question on HoB/D (which you have probably already seen): I should clarify that, on my blog, I was not expressing my own personal view so much as offering an explanation as to why those recently-former Episcopalians who have taken cover under an offshore Primate, and those Anglican provinces that appear to be questioning the necessity of a Canterbury-centric Anglicanism (those involved in GAFCON), will not be persuaded by this development to re-assess their positions. (It has since become evident that the plan of which Bishop Howe has become a spokesman isn't really even aimed at those who have already departed, but at those who may feel some pressure to do so in the future.) Those who know me will realize that I am still an Episcopalian and that I very much lament GAFCON and the Lambeth boycott. I was trying to give voice to those who, by definition, may not speak on this forum. They are people with whom I am broadly in sympathy while differing sharply in matters of strategy.

Moreover, my analysis was not intended to be idealistic or spiritual or theological, but quite pragmatically political. Every human grouping has a political dimension. This is neither good nor evil--it just is. And politics is, among other things, "the art of the possible." This is the context in which I made my remarks that have been interpreted as a desire to see TEC "humiliated." To the extent that anyone is interested in practicing "the art of the possible" with respect to the already-in-progress bifurcation of Anglicanism, the path to that goal lies through the humiliation of the church of which I am a member and a presbyter.

I certainly have no desire to see TEC "eat" a "defeat" merely for its own sake, for whatever fleeting joy there may be in "sticking it to" the "bad guys" in this sorry soap opera. But humiliation is, after all, a rather Christ-like posture, and perhaps it is the "one thing needful" at this hour.

To Emily--
You are correct. I should have said "nihil obstat," not "imprimatur."

Randy Muller said...

Fr. Dan wrote: "there was no doubt a time when something such as this might have “worked” to avert the sort of pandemic schism Anglicanism now faces."

This was essentially proposed at Dar es Salaam in February 2007, and was rejected out of hand by the ECUSA House of Bishops.

It was proposed again by ECUSA in September 2007.

It has similar benefits and defects as the previous proposals, and will probably not appeal (for exactly the same reasons) to the same folks it is aimed at.

Malcolm+ said...

Dan, I agree that some movements have been successful by painting themselves as moderate and the other side as extremist. I don't think we really disagree here. That is, after all, one very effective way of drawng the moderates to a particular side.

Craig G said...

Dan+ is quite right that this is too little, too late. The Windsor Report presented not a "process," but a set of minimum conditions that TEC would need to satisfy for its relationship with the Communion to begin to mend. In response, TEC alternated between temporizing, duplicity, and rejection.

In reaction to all this, Dar es Salaam offered one last chance for TEC to straightforwardly accept the conditions of Windsor/Dromantine. It was rejected, of course, and ++Rowan continued his temporizing.

That train has already left, the toothpaste is out of the tube, alea jacta est.

As to Malcolm+'s claim that the TEC GC represents anyone or anything other than itself, the only possible reaction to this is hollow laughter. When the pew sitters have the chance to vote, they vote overwhelmingly to reject 815. Remember that novice deputies are specifically instructed that they are not to vote as "representatives", but to "vote their consciences", i.e. to give in to the incredible activist pressure at the Convention.

Malcolm+ said...

The idea that delegates 'are not to vote as "representatives", but to "vote their consciences",' is profoundly conservative, Craig. It was originally articulated by none other than Edmund Burke in his famous speech to the merchants of Bristol.

Of course, I have never really believed that the "reasserter" movement was ever, in any meaningful sense, conservative. That's why I always refer to them with quotation marks. Conservatives seek to conserve, not to destroy.

It might also be worth noting (as was recently done at Thinking Anglicans) that the liberals don't carry the day at General Convention quite so often as the "conservative" mythology would have us believe. But the oppression mythology is a vital part of the reasserter conspiracy.

Marshall said...

Brother Dan, with all due respect (and believe me, I am aware of your decision to stay within the Episcopal Church as "loyal (and feeling lonely) opposition." At the same time, I fear that the Windsor Report simply did not include what was really wanted by those who have chosen to depart. Windsor required expressions of regret for insufficient consultation. Regret has been expressed several times; but what was wanted was expression of regret for the final events. Windsor required bishops to consider whether they could appropriately represent the Communion. I'm sure many considered, and Bishop Griswold withdrew from the Anglican /Roman Catholic International Commission; but what was wanted was clear exclusion, with no possibility of considering and participating anyway. There have been differences of opinion across the Communion about whether the expressions of the Episcopal Church were "enough." But by and large they were exactly what was asked by Windsor; and for those who have chosen to depart, what was asked by Windsor was not enough.

JamesW. said...

Marshall - I think you need to go back to read the Windsor Report. It most certainly did NOT merely ask for regret for "insufficient consultation" but rather for "breaching the bonds of affection." The term "bonds of affection" is a term of art for the unwritten Anglican constitution. It would be like if George W. Bush was subjected to impeachment proceedings for wilfully violating the US Constitution and he apologized for insufficiently consulting the Democrats before the violation.

As for me, I think what the conservative primates want is some form of meaningful protection for orthodox dioceses and parishes in TEC which will permit them three things: 1) the ability to redirect parishioner tithes away from TEC's liberal agenda; 2) the clergy succession process to come under the supervision of a friendly bishop; and 3) pastoral oversight by a bishop who subscribes to historic Anglican Christianity. If you choose to see this a "punishing" someone, that is your issue, not ours.

Virginia Gal said...

"...a bishop who subscribes to historic Anglican Christianity." (JamesW).

Ah, there's the rub. No one seems to agree on the definition of "historic Anglican Christianity." Do you retreat to the time of Elizabeth I, and use her methods for the reconciliation of England's Roman and Protestant factions? Uniting all in prayer and the sacraments, so each parish can have a common church to serve the community?

My wise father - quite a conservative man - says, "the problem with reactionaries is that they never seem to know where to stop when they start moving backward in time."

JamesW. said...

virginia gal: while you are undoubtedly correct that "historic Anglican Christianity" might be hard to define in all of its specifics, however, I would submit that it is abundantly clear that much of liberal TEC most certainly is not it.

When I made the comment, I would suggest that the clue to its interpretation can be found in the first paragraph of my posting. To wit - the only Anglican bishops who have been found guilty of "breaching the bonds of affection" (i.e. violation of the unwritten Anglican constitution or way of behaving Anglican) are the liberal TEC bishops and Michael Ingham from the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster.

And I would remind everyone here that if TEC had only agreed to the DAR plan which was unanimously agreed upon by all Anglican primates (conservative, moderate, liberal and even by KJS), then I don't think we would be facing the issues we are facing today.

ruidh said...

"while you are undoubtedly correct that "historic Anglican Christianity" might be hard to define in all of its specifics, however, I would submit that it is abundantly clear that much of liberal TEC most certainly is not it."

That's not at all clear. Not in the least.

Anglican expressions have always been expressions of the time they were in. They were never expressions of historic Alglicanism, they were expressions of the period.

JamesW said...

ruidh: I base my statement on the clear statements of the Anglican Instruments of Unity. Even Rowan Williams, despite his resistance to Communion discipline, has stated that the issue is TEC's refusal to abide by Anglican, Communion teaching.

Malcolm+ said...

I am always amazed by the "conservative" ability to ignore the clear language of Windsor - and even, oddly enough, of Rowan Cantuar - and to pretend that there is broad acceptance of their intercontinental ballistic forays.

James, to suggest that only one side has been condemned by anyone is (how shall I put this delicately) a bloody lie.